HYDERABAD : On the walls of Salar Jung museum hang the photographs of notable poet Afsar Muhammad, who is celebrating 40 years of his poetry. The poet is present at the event. He is meeting and greeting people and students, and taking selfies with them. Apart from being a poet, Afsar is also a short story writer and literary critic in Telugu. A lecturer in South Asian Cultures and Telugu Studies at the South Asia Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania, the poet is here at the museum to release his book ‘Afsar Kavitvam’, an anthology of his poems.
Born and brought up in a village in Telangana, Afsar has now become an icon of modern poetry in Telugu. His journey through four turbulent decades portrays his relentless passion not only for poetry, but his deep commitment to his immediate social discourses. “My book, ‘The Festival of Pirs: Popular Islam and Shared Devotion in South India’, focuses on the public ritual in the context of Islam as the religion,” says Afsar.
“I am currently working on the modern history of Hyderabad, which focuses on religious violence and defines Hindu-Muslim religious identity,” he adds.His father Kowmudi, who was a prominent progressive writer, had a big influence on him. “From childhood, I have loved poetry. My father made me read great literature and from him, I got inspired to write, which took me in a different direction,” the poet says.
Living in a different country made him realise the importance of being at home and writing about the people with whom he has spent his life. “Living abroad brought me loneliness. It’s a very painful separation. You are physically away but psychologically, you are here in Hyderabad. Most of my poem describes the pain of being away from home living with different culture and different challenges, but luckily, I work at a beautiful university where South Asian studies is a huge part of the system,” he adds.
For him, poetry is one of the influencing forces which can change the society. He says, “Poetry can change the mind of the people, it can bring internal revolution which can make a huge impact in society.” His new book on will be released next year.